EVGA GTX 660 SUPERCLOCKED

02G-P4-2662-KR_MD_1The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked (02G-P4-2662-KR) was released September 6, 2012 making it part of the third series of shader model 5 DirectX 11 cards from NVIDIA. This makes the GTX 660 a very strong performer for DirectX 11 class games.

The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked is the one model down from the GTK106 with a bad memory controller. The GK106 has 5 SMX units in the GTX 660.

The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked is a strong gaming class video card that supports up to DirectX 11. EVGA historically offered a lifetime warranty but the 196.75 driver defect caused them to change to 3 years with options for more. EVGA does not void the warranty for users who regreased their cards due to thermal throttling. Our old EVGA GTX 260 lasted 5 years and it was still functional when retired.

EVGA positions this model to compete with the rival AMD HD 7770 in the $300-$500 enthusiast market. In practice not many cards are sold at this market segment. Competition is most intense in the $100-$150 segment.

Today there is a wide range of games that support the DirectX 11 features. Games still generally support DirectX 9 for XP users. Today many games support a span of DirectX versions in order to have the widest compatibility. With XP retired, DirectX 11 will be the platform for the next 5 years anyway.

The Kepler GK106 GPU is  features 3,540 million transistors. By comparison the 8800 series had 700 million transistors. The die for the EVGA GTX 660 Supercharged SC  is 17×17 mm making a yield of about 250 devices on a 300 mm wafer using 28 nm. This compares to the 24×24 mm size of the GTX 260 on the 65 nm line.

Kepler is a further refinement over the previous Fermi line. The SMX modules have more compute and less control logic and as such are more efficient at demanding compute tasks. Kepler uses 192 CUDA cores in each SMX module while the older Fermi uses only 32 CUDA cores. The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked has five SMX units to give it 960 total CUDA cores.

Kepler also redesigned the control logic to make it more parallel friendly. The modular design will continue with the next generation as the DirectX 11 API matures. Many DX11 features that are being marketed by NVIDIA have actually been around since the XP period. Vista redesigned the graphics system which pushed video card designs and DirectX 11 is simply the refinement of the DX10 work.

The new GTX GPUs embed additional new technology but for the end-user nothing really changed other than raw performance and power management. The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked has 960 active cores. Made on a 28 nm line, the EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked power draw is slightly higher then the reference 120W. The CUDA cores with Kepler are not as powerful as Fermi, however, the SMX design is more capable which is why it’s faster. When comparing CUDA cores with Fermi and Kepler, the Kepler are roughly half as powerful. Kepler is redesigned to provide generally more parallel processing for games.

NVIDIA Kepler block diagram

One of the advantages of the SMX design is that each can be used independently. This is helpful for threaded game engines that need more compute performance that the CPU can deliver. With SLI enabled, this simply increases the pool of SMX modules for available shaders. This is why games like Rage perked up considerably when tested with the EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked. Clearly the Kepler architecture is very favorable for games looking forward. Rage features a new engine which is one of games we considered when testing this card.

Unlike consoles, the EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked can deliver quality games at the full 1920×1080 easily. Battlefield 4, Crysis 3 and other titles are all extremely playable. The card is so powerful it likely will have a viable service life far beyond the 3 years EVGA provides for warranty.

The EVGA GTX 660 Supercharged is able to SLI with up to 2 way.

  • Idle/2D power mode: approx. 15W
  • Blu-ray & DVD playback mode: approx. 25W
  • Full 3D performance mode: varies – worst case TDP 120W
  • DX12 (feature level 11.0)
  • OpenGL 4.4
  • 9½” length, 4⅜” full height, dual slot
  • 241mm length, 111.15mm full height, dual slot

The reference NVIDIA GTX 660 is roughly 915 MHz however EVGA was able to achieve 1046 MHz which makes the card viable to compete with the AMD Radeon HD 7850. We tried overclocking the card and and found additional headroom for more performance gains which is typical for the elite EVGA line.

The NVIDIA GPU boost feature runs at 980 MHz but EVGA adds some performance by increasing the clock speed all the way to 1124 MHz if the card is below the power limit. Its possible to increase the power limit to allow for even more performance. Our Corsair TX850V2 has more than enough current to deal with any graphics card.

PORT OPTIONS

The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked comes with a pair of DVI connectors and one HDMI and one DisplayPort connector. Adapters for VGA and HDMI are widely available and EVGA includes a VGA adapter with the EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked. This is typical for the range of gaming cards which support VGA and up.

HDMI is the option we tested the card with, which quickly demonstrated how bad the sound is with PC LCD panels. HDMI is a separate sound system so it can be disabled in favor of better sounding solutions. We use some low cost Altec Lansing speakers that are drastically better sounding than the PA238QR panel. Video cards with HDMI invariably have integrated audio which works fine with a suitable home theatre system. The Altec Lansing speakers have ports for audio in and out making them equally flexible.

DUAL FAN

EVGA is now using dual fan coolers on their high-end cards. While most of the warm air is exhausted out the rear, some of the warm air from the VRAM is returned to the chassis. The design is well suited for SLI use in extreme systems. Our own test platform is 2-way capable which is ideal for the GTX 660. The top mounted fans in our Corsair Carbide 300R far exceed the extra thermal load imposed by any graphics cards.

The real immediate advantage is the reduced noise from the cooler fans. Even when loaded 50% the fans often remain at idle. By comparison the old GTX 260 fan would howl when the card was running hard.

SLI

The reference GTX 660 supports up to 2-way SLI. In reality, one card is plenty for games through 2012. The SLI advantage means a second GTX 660 can be procured for additional performance.

 

GTX 260 GTX 470 GTX 570 EVGA GTX 660
Shaders 192 448 480 960
Core Clock (MHz) 576 607 732 1046
Shader Clock (MHz) 1242 1215 1644 N/A
Memory Clock (MHz) 999 1647 1900 1502
VRAM Size 896 MB 1280 MB 1280 MB 2048 MB
VRAM Width 448-bit 320-bit 320-bit 192-bit
Feature Size 65 nm 40 nm 40 nm 28 nm

At idle you can expect a temperature of 28-35° C but once pushed to 100%, the temperatures will rise to ~70-80° C. Even in the hottest summer weather, the dual fan cooler keeps this EVGA card much cooler with less noise.

VIDEO CONVERSION

We use video conversion tools as part of the creation of game video files. Using a CUDA enabled converter with H.264 can be as much as 5x faster. Using 2 threads is enough to raise the GPU usage to 25% as the encoder executes discrete cosine transforms in vast numbers. Most modern video tools now have options for both AMD and NVIDIA users.

DIRECTX 12

A a games developer conference in early 2014, Microsoft announced DirectX 12 which will ship with the next Windows release. DX12 is a refinement intended to take better advantage of the multithreaded capability of DX11 cards. With 5 SMX modules, the GTX 660 potentially can run 75separate threads which came boost performance immensely. AMD and NVIDIA both use roughly the same designs which motivated DX12 to be threaded.

In general any gaming grade DX11 card will run DX12 fine. NVIDIA Kepler and Maxwell both very suitable. DX12 will be rapidly supported by games in 2015 following the next Windows release.

CONCLUSION

The EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked is not cheap, but if you want to beat up on games in 2012 then this card is one tough hombre. Even the most demanding games are very playable. Even better is that the card also does it with a lot less power. Even loaded, the GTX 660 Ti rarely exceeds 50% power consumption which will save $$$$ when compared to the older cards we were using.

HDMI

The HDMI standard includes High Definition Content Protection. EVGA properly implements HDCP with the HDMI port.

UEFI

EVGA provided us with a UEFI VBIOS upgrade. UEFI GOP is needed to allow Windows 8 fast boot to support UEFI and GPT boot disk. The new VBIOS is 100% backwards compatible.

AS TESTED

 

CHASSIS Corsair Carbide 300R
MB MSI 970A-G43
CPU AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition 3.4 GHz
RAM 12288MB DDR3-1600 dual channel
PSU Corsair TX850V2
MON Asus PA238QR (1920×1080 60Hz)
HD Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 ST2000DM001
OS Windows 8.1 x64 Professional

PERFORMANCE

All of the benchmarks are available here.